Reading and stories have forever been a passion of mine, and so I am somewhat reluctant to admit that until recently I had never before paid a visit to the British Library. Home to over 170 million (!!!?!?!!?!?!!) items on over 625km of shelves, dating from 3,000 years ago to literally TODAY, as well as host to a timetable full of exhibitions and events, the B.L. is definitely one of my new favourite places to visit in the Capital. You’ll need to grab a reader’s pass to enter the reading rooms, but the rest of the library – including 3 cafes, a restaurant, a really really good gift shop and three exhibition galleries – is open to all. I was lucky enough to catch the penultimate day of the Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition and oh boiiii, it was great.
After planning to spend “an hour and a half – tops” checking out this celebration of all things gothic, I ended up lingering for almost 3 hours devouring the exhibition and although it is no longer running, I just can’t resist telling you a little bit about it. It explored the pervasiveness of gothic imaginings for the past 250 years, looking at the gothic genre not only in literature, but in films, art, music, fashion and architecture. Featuring excerpts and material surrounding classics including The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein, and Dracula as well as more contemporary, but still undeniably gothic works including The Bloody Chamber, Twilight, and films such as The Shining it was remarkable to see how pervasive and long-lasting is our human fascination with things unearthly, grotesque and fearsome. Included in the exhibition were spooky, unnerving objects, beautifully atmospheric paintings, engravings and sketches and scrawled correspondences and jotted notes from the likes of Byron, Shelley and Jack the Ripper himself – all working to enhance the feeling of fascination and repulsion so familiar when considering the macabre.
Unfortunately, this exhibition has ended. There are, however, many other undoubtably equally captivating exhibitions lined up, including one focusing on Arctic Exploration and another marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carter. You can read more about these here. Plus sitting in the cafe overlooked by shelf upon shelf of books making up the King’s Library (Good job, George III) is pretty inspiring. I urge you to go and check it out.
- Price: FREE ENTRY! (Some exhibitions, however, do charge for admission – generally £5 for students)
- Opening Times: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 09.30 – 18.00
Tuesday 09.30 – 20.00, Saturday 09.30 – 17.00, Sundays 11.00 – 17.00
- Facilities: 3 Cafes, A Restaurant, beaut gift shops, lots of little places to sit and read and write, a number of ‘reading rooms’ (more about getting a reader’s pass here)
- Cup of Coffee: £2.30 for a latte.
- Bring with you: a notebook and a pencil/pen. (Also maybe some money for some potentially unnecessary but seriously desirable literary inspired gifts – see the online shop for a taster)
- Address: The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London. NW1 2DB.
- Website: http://www.bl.uk/